Pope: let's attract others to Jesus, not to ourselves

At the Angelus, Francis highlights the example of John the Baptist, urging the faithful to reflect on the importance for educators to learn to "step aside". He also announced an ecumenical vigil with the Taizé Community on 30 September just before the start of the synod.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The true educator is the one who can "step aside" to make room for Jesus, said Pope Francis today in his address to the faithful in St Peter's Square for the Sunday Angelus.

Speaking about the baptism of Jesus in today’s liturgy, Pope Francis noted that John the Baptist “was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, and had done so without sparing himself. Humanly speaking, one would think that he would be given a ‘prize’, a prominent place in Jesus’ public life. But no. John, having accomplished his mission, knows how to step aside, he withdraws from the scene to make way for Jesus.  

John “does not bind anyone to himself. And this is difficult, but it is the sign of the true educator: not binding people to himself.” Instead, he “teaches us freedom from attachments to roles and positions, to the need to be valued, recognized and rewarded, while “service involves gratuitousness, taking care of others without benefit for oneself, without ulterior motives”.

“Let us think of how important this is for a priest, who is required to preach and celebrate, not out of self-importance or interest, but to accompany others to Jesus. Think of how important this is for parents, to raise their children with many sacrifices, but then they have to leave them free to take their own path in work, in marriage, in life. It is good and right that parents continue to assure their presence, saying to their children, ‘We will not leave you by yourselves’, but with discretion, without intrusiveness. The freedom to grow. And the same applies to other spheres, such as friendships, life as a couple, community life.”

The pontiff thus asks: “are we capable of making space for others? [. . .] Do we attract others to Jesus, or to ourselves? And furthermore, following the example of John: do we know how to rejoice in the fact that people take their own path and follow their calling, even if this entails some detachment from us? Do we rejoice in their achievements, with sincerity and without envy?”

After the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis mentioned the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that starts next Wednesday (18 January); this year’s theme comes from the Prophet Isaiah: “Learn to do good; seek justice”. “[L]et us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and sustain us with his gifts,” Francis said.

The pontiff also announced that the Taizé Community will hold an ecumenical vigil in St Peter's Square with young people from all Christian confessions, thus stressing the link between the ecumenical journey and the synodal path the Church is undertaking in accordance with the his will.

For Francis, this will be a moment when “we will entrust to God the work of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops”, which will “open the following day on the theme of Synodality.”

In concluding, the pontiff renewed his call not to forget the suffering of the Ukrainian people and to persevere in praying for peace.